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Doug Leier, Published January 01 2013

Leier: The right first step is key in becoming a game warden

Fargo - It’s been a long time since I began my career with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department as a district game warden in January 1996. I’ll say it feels like yesterday and 17 years ago in the same assessment.

It’s just by chance that this column coincides with that anniversary of sorts. My real purpose here is to help the Game and Fish Department recruit the next class of game warden candidates. The opportunity doesn’t come around very often, and like it was for me 17 years ago, the game warden test coming up later in January is the first step.

Growing up and during my later years in high school, I enjoyed the time spent outdoors with my friends and dad while hunting and fishing. Like most kids who have similar interests, I often wondered what it would be like to be a game warden and work in the conservation field.

After college my first official job was as a private lands biologist. I had already taken the game warden test and then was offered the job and I couldn’t pass up the chance.

After the test, the interviews and waiting for a position to open, 10 months later I entered the law enforcement academy in Bismarck. Then came a few months of field training before I was assigned my first post at Bottineau. After a year there, I transferred to West Fargo.

It was a great way to start a career, though I eventually moved on from the enforcement division to become the Game and Fish Department’s outreach biologist in the Fargo area.

If you or someone you know has ever thought, “I’d like to be a game warden,” now is the time to act. The Game and Fish Department has scheduled the initial warden examination for 10 a.m. Jan. 18 at the department’s main office in Bismarck.

Applicants must register to take the exam by submitting a letter of intent to chief game warden Robert Timian, North Dakota Game and Fish Department, 100 N. Bismarck Expressway, Bismarck, N.D. 58501 5095. Letters of intent must be submitted before 5 p.m., Jan. 17.

The fundamental requirements are that applicants must be at least 21 years of age and have a bachelor’s degree. Many candidates come with biology, wildlife management or law enforcement related degrees, but Game and Fish currently has wardens who came from other degree disciplines as well.

Game wardens are licensed peace officers so anyone who does not already have that license will go through the law enforcement training academy upon hiring. Candidates also need a valid driver’s license, must have excellent interpersonal skills in communications and writing, and must not have a record of any felony convictions.

Game warden duties require the ability to perform physically demanding tasks involving lifting and carrying large, heavy objects, walking and running over uneven terrain and tolerating adverse weather and other environmental conditions.

Selection procedures following the test may include an evaluation of the application, a structured oral interview, background and reference checks, and psychological and medical examinations.

For someone who loves the outdoors, the warden exam might be the first step on the path to a rewarding career.

Leier is a biologist with the Game and Fish Department. He can be reached by email: dleier@nd.gov